Social Network shopping finds a bumpy road

Posted by PartyWeDo on Monday, February 1, 2010


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There are two ways to look at an unpaved road into the forest… road in the forest

1. The road is impassable and should be abandoned for another route.

2. The road needs some improvements before it can be truly useful.

Impassable roads, un-traversed mountains and un-crossable rivers are ether dead ends or hidden opportunities, depending upon your perspective.

A recently released study suggests that retailers are finding the road through the forest of social media a little rougher than first expected. This report was highlighted in some of the Facebook blogs as a potential roadblock to the success of retail in this space.

Some are suggesting that retailers should just stick to using Facebook as an advertising tool and abandon the construction of a retail sales conduit in this friend network…

It is hard to argue with the fact that over 90% of the major retailers have started down the social media road with fan pages, only to see very low response.

But retailers have always looked for a new route for product distribution, and have been known to pioneer some dramatic new crossings in the past. Just consider the transformations in retailing from the past… Remember the move from catalog shopping to the department store, or the corner store to the mall to Amazon.

The report highlights the low return from retailing in Facebook, which might have many considering this social road impassable for retail sales. We suggest that the road just needs some improvements before it will allow for a smooth transit-way for retail goods. The trail needs the right pavement applied to make social retailing a smoother process. It will be worth the effort in the long run.

The social networks roll on the wheels of conversation and any route through this forest of friends must facilitate and add to the banter, in order to be successful. Disneyland-Paris-Main-street

A quick look at Main Street in Disneyland gives us a hint as to how we could pave the retail road on Facebook and other social properties. This adventure park draws millions of visitors for a day of fantasy and fun. Many attended on special occasions, like birthdays, weddings and holidays. Most come as families. The Disneyland experience is very much a conversation creator, built on an atmosphere of fun for all ages.

Entering the park, visitors are greeted by the famous Main Street. But you will notice immediately that retailing has been integrated into the fun at every turn….

How did they interject selling into the magic? First, they knew that people would come on special occasions and that these occasions usually revolve around some type of gift giving. Second, they knew that if they sold gifts that would add to the conversation they would ease the sales process and breakdown many retail roadblocks. Think of how many people bring back the purchases of Disneyland and share them in conversation with others.

Wise retailers who want to traverse Facebook will find ways to build small mimics of an adventure park, where family and friends can come on special occasions and buy gifts for one another and enjoy a conversation.

The road into the social forest may be undeveloped today, but the time will come that Facebook will play host to many great adventures in retailing. Pioneering retailers are currently paving the roadway for the next great main street on social properties…

PartyWeDo NOTE: Just as I was about to hit Publish on this post, I got a notification of a comment that Dave McClure made on a plane trip to NYC: “ASSERTION #2: “The default startup business model for 2010 & beyond will be subscriptions and transactions (e-commerce, digital goods).” It seems that Mr. McClure also sees retail sales as a way to pave the road for social media monetization.

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